A few weeks ago I pulled out the storage bag where I keep the small amount of kids’ clothes that I’ve deemed special enough to keep for nostalgia sake, or that are otherwise waiting for the right-sized kid to fit into them. I wanted to see what few baby things I’d saved and to get a sense of what we might need with another little one on the way. To my delight I found a woolly fleece suit of Silas’s that I’d lent to my sister (and that we’d both forgotten she’d already returned to me), and a favorite wool sweater I’d received when Faye was a baby, that had since also been loved by Silas. Unfortunately, both beloved woolens had suffered a bit from time and our affection: I found a tear along a seam of the woolly suit and evidence that the sweater had been snacked on by unbeknownst-to-us resident bugs.
Felting to the rescue. In my thirty-five years I’d never embarked on a full felting repair of my own, but when over coffee with Rose, I bemoaned the fate of my favorite woolens, she assured me that I was up to the task. In typical Rose style, when she saw me next, she arrived with a pouch of materials I could borrow to make the fix.
The process was so easy and so satisfying. Not to mention, stress-relieving. It’s been such a great week for repeatedly stabbing an inanimate object with a sharp needle. Just one warning: Once you start, you’re not going to want to stop.
Materials needed and instructions below, plus a few woolly resources.
+ Wool item to be repaired (As a general rule, felting works best when working with 100-percent wool, though for smaller projects especially, don’t shy away from blends if that’s what you have. In my felting fervor, I had lots of luck felting over some goody bag masks that my kids were given, and they were decidedly not one-hundred percent wool.)
+ 100-percent wool roving
+ Felting needle (I borrowed a single needle from Rose to make these repairs and it was perfect. If you’re tackling a larger project or planning to felt a bunch, you might opt for a wooden needle felting tool that comes with a range of needles and the option to use multiple needles at the same time.)
+ Felting mat (I borrowed a felting mat similar to this bristle-style felting mat. You can also use a firm woolen mat as your felting surface (or, if you have one already destined for the landfill, a piece of dense styrofoam).
+ If your sweater is damaged due to moths or other pests (like this one), make sure you’re starting with a clean sweater to ensure there are no larvae present.
+ Place your felting mat underneath the small hole or area in need of repair.
+ Tear (don’t cut) a piece of wool roving in the color and size that you need and use your fingers to shape it into a puffy sphere. Place the roving on top of the hole and use your needle to puncture the roving into the wool you’re seeking to mend.
+ With every pierce of the needle, the roving will adhere itself to the wool sweater. Continue piercing the roving until it is well adhered and flat against the surface of the sweater.
+ Note: I used circles here in contrasting shades because I was repairing a baby sweater. If circles aren’t your style, feel free to choose matching roving or to work your roving into a different shape for more subtle (or creative!) repairs.
Other woolly things:
+ Fibershed is an inspiring nonprofit organization committed to developing regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers. They do this work by “expanding opportunities to implement carbon farming, forming catalytic foundations to rebuild regional manufacturing, and through connecting end-users to farms and ranches through public education.” Head to their site to learn more about their Climate Beneficial Wool Certification and the soil-to-soil lifecycle. The Fibershed Marketplace is also a great place to search for wool products you can buy: Climate Beneficial Wool Roving among them!
+ Elizabeth Suzann, maker of my favorite wool cocoon, is launching Cold Weather Collection 2.0 next week, on October 28. With the collection comes the return of wool to the company’s product line. All of the wool in their new collection is traceable, domestic, and Climate Beneficial.
+ For kids, Chasing Windmills is a favorite shop for making cozy, wearable merino long johns. Misha & Puff is another favorite shop of ours for hand knit hats, scarves, and sweaters (you can even knit your own!). Their latest women’s collection launches October 29. (Just please stop asking me if I’m selling either of my sweaters. I love you, but no.)
+ My dear friend, collaborator, and lender of the felting supplies used above, Rose Pearlman, has a whole book of woolly projects coming out just in time for the holidays. Modern Rug Hooking, is available now for preorder and will be released on December 2.